UCLA

BioTech 177


Stylish Dogs & the Genes that Made Them–Amy

Posted on April 24, 2009 by amy

            We live in a culture that is steeped in markers of status, from the cars we drive to the brands on clothing, these symbols connote economic standing, regional pride, or sometimes just indicate a hobby of the bearer of the insignia; what always remains is a statement about cultural savvy, and cultural relevance.  All of this knowledge transmitted by a school logo on a sweatshirt, or a kind of purse a woman carries.  The same can be said of our pets, there is always the question of being a cat person, or a dog person.  The answer to even this most trivial question imparting the cultural assignations to cats and dogs. 

Jessica Simpson with her Cockapoo

            What happens though, when such a question becomes complicated by genetics.  “Are you a cat or a dog person?” becomes “Are you a genetically modified cat or dog person?” Now not only do people have the choice of breed, but within that breed they can choose to purchase a “tea-cup” variety of the animal, and in the case of cats opt to buy a hypoallergenic feline companion. Felix Pets,(http://felixpets.com/) is a biotechnology company that is committed to the creation of allergen free pets.  Allerca, a similar company claims to have produced the first hypoallergenic cats. While this would be beneficial to the consumer because they would “[be able] to enjoy the love and companionship of a household pet without suffering from allergy symptoms.” as it so warmly states in the company’s mission statement, but would this produce a healthy animal? 

 

Teacup dogs, dogs that are genetically engineered to be between 2 and 4lbs and grow to be no larger than about 13” to 14.”  While these adorable little pooches are trendy, toted in designer purses by celebrities like Paris Hilton, because of their extreme inbreeding and genetic modifications to make them their diminutive size, they are not very healthy, and many do not live for more than a few years.  

 

Teacup Yorkies for instance suffer frequently from vomiting and diarrhea and because of their size easily break bones if they fall (http://www.gopetsamerica.com/dogs/tea-cup-yorkies.aspx ).  These dogs are also the immune to the multitude of diseases that normal purebred dogs are subject to because of the very inbreeding that makes them purebred.  The low genetic variation in gene pools makes heritable conditions exponentially more common in pure bred dogs than in dogs that are mixed. The following site provides common diseases associated with different breeds of purebred dogs, I found the list quite astounding:  http://home.gci.net/~divs/disease/dbpgs/a.html.

            While in some ways it may seem that genetic engineering the enemy of man’s best friend another trend in dog breeding is purposefully crossing different breeds to create “hybrid dogs” such as the Labradoodle—a cross between a lab and a poodle, the Puggle—a cross between a beagle and a pug—and the Cockapoo—a cocker spaniel crossed with a poodle.  Because of the increase in genetic variation due to the crossing of breeds, these hybrid dogs are actually healthier pets than the average purebred dog this is called the heterosis effect (http://www.i-love-dogs.com/dog-articles/Dog_Breeding/page_1/Hybrid_Vigour_Or_Heterosis_With_Mixed_Breed_Dogs.html ).

 

Puggle Puppy

 

Three Labradoodle Puppies

 

Cockapoo

            Both hybrid and miniature breed dogs are quite expensive fetching (pun intended) $1500-$10000 dollars.  Their price as well as their upkeep and the fact that many celebrities purchase them make the a hot commodity in the dog world, boasting the owner’s high social and economic standing to some; to others, demonstrating the owner like extremely little dogs, and/or dogs with funny names.

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